A word of advice to help schools combat radicalisation

The terrible attack on tourists in Tunisia came just days before new legislation in the UK came into effect on July 1, giving schools a legal duty to prevent young people from being drawn to terrorism.

Given the current climate, it’s a huge responsibility. The new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 outlines that schools have a statutory responsibility for the active prevention and detection of radicalism amongst their pupils. It states that “every teacher should be aware of the risks posed by the online activity of extremist and terrorist groups and be vigilant of the signs of radicalisation”.

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that Britain is engaged in a “generational struggle” against terrorism and needs a ‘full spectrum response to extremism in our schools’.

It’s a tall order and greater minds than mine are working on these issues 24/7.  But I do have a word of advice. When immigrant children join our schools and communities we have to get them speaking English within weeks – six weeks at the most.

For without language skills we can’t truly integrate these children and their families into the UK. They have to speak the language so that they don’t fall behind in school which is where a sense of alienation can begin to take a hold.

Like the old African proverb says; “It takes a village to raise a child”.  Schools do not operate in silos and are committed to reaching out to the parents of their pupils and the communities of which they are part.

By engaging with parents, schools can work in partnership to teach British values and to respect and support immigrant families so that they are well integrated and feel the full benefit of being part of UK society. We can only come to a true understanding of each other when we have the right language in place.

This will reduce the threat of radicalisation – every child needs to find their place in the world and to feel that their values are properly respected. Children here in our schools need to feel happy and confident that their place is with the UK.

There is no time to lose – it’s vital to ensure that children gain linguistic skills and learn what is expected of them in the UK culture as quickly as possible.  It’s hard to do this in a huge class, so our English as an Additional Language (EAL) and High 5 courses take pupils out of the classroom and into small groups to address this issue at the source.

It is absolutely critical that we support teachers in their efforts to integrate their pupils.

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